winerydogs2 Brian Aberback of

After playing with several bands in recent years, former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy has found a permanent home with The Winery Dogs.

“At this point in my career I’ve been doing lots of different things with lots of different people and I’ve definitely been looking for the right group of guys,” Portnoy said by phone. “The Winery Dogs is fulfilling, enriching and inspiring. There’s incredible potential for the future.”

The Winery Dogs also include bassist Billy Sheehan (Talas, David Lee Roth, Steve Vai, Mr. Big) and guitarist-singer Richie Kotzen (Poison, Mr. Big), and they perform on Wednesday in Englewood. The band released its self-titled debut album last year.

At first glance The Winery Dogs appear to be a virtuoso supergroup. The band members have been praised for their technical wizardry and won dozens of critic and fan awards from musician magazines. But Portnoy said The Winery Dogs are more concerned with writing solid songs than fretboard and drumming acrobatics.

“Stylistically it’s the first thing I’ve ever done that’s not rooted in metal or prog-rock,” said Portnoy, a Long Island native. “The Winery Dogs are a straight-up rock band, a song-and-vocal-oriented band, and it’s refreshing. You can listen to it for the songs or the musicianship or both. There’s a great balance.”

The band’s debut album’s many standout tracks include the driving “Elevate,” the soulful “You Saved Me” and the groove-laden “Not Hopeless.” The disc hit No. 27 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. This month the album was re-released in two formats: with a bonus live CD and with a live CD and DVD.

The Winery Dogs also marks the first time that some fans are hearing Kotzen on lead vocals. While he has sung on his solo records, Kotzen was not the singer in Poison or Mr. Big.

“People had no idea Richie could sing the way he does,” Portnoy said. “He’s an unbelievable talent. It was the best-kept secret of the band.”

Portnoy had known Sheehan for more than 20 years when the two began working on a project in 2012. Radio personality Eddie Trunk suggested that Portnoy and Sheehan call Kotzen to round out the band.

The Winery Dogs are Portnoy’s first trio. He said the arrangement has advantages on and offstage. “There’s so much space sonically,” he said. “Personally it’s such a different dynamic too. Everything is so much easier with only two other people, from having more space on the tour bus and in the dressing room to making musical decisions.”

In 1985, Portnoy co-founded highly popular prog-rockers Dream Theater. He played on 10 studio albums and several live records before leaving the band in 2010. Before forming The Winery Dogs, Portnoy played with modern and traditional metalers Avenged Sevenfold and Adrenaline Mob, respectively. In addition, he plays in several side projects, including Transatlantic with singer-keyboardist Neal Morse, and Portnoy-Sheehan-McAlpine-Sherinian, which includes guitarist Tony McAlpine and ex-Dream Theater keyboardist Derek Sherinian.

Portnoy said The Winery Dogs will spend the spring and summer on tour before taking a break. “We plan on regrouping around Christmas or New Year’s to make album number two and continue to introduce the world to The Dogs,” he said.


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  • Brian from Long Island on

    Eddie –
    Where can I find the Studio version of the song Criminal? I now have the live version but think there was an import that was not available in US. Thanks Brian

    • Clint Pagel on

      You have to get the Japanese version of the album. You don’t get Time Machine, but Criminal is on there.

  • Danny on

    Every couple of years, a group/album comes along that just blows you away, with a fresh sound, and great songs. For me a few of these have been King’s X (FHL), Gov’t Mule, Jet (Get Born), Chickenfoot, and now The Winery Dogs! On all of these albums, ALL of the songs are great. This album should be all over the radio, but radio is a fucking joke. If you put this on any local rock station, sales would blow up real quick!

  • Keith Gallant on

    These guys totally rock! Honestly, I hadn’t heard anything from R. Kotzen since his stint with Poison back in the day. But both his playing and singing are first rate on the Winery Dogs disc. Of course, both Portnoy and Sheehan are completely killler on their instruments. But it is the songs on this disc that are so amazing. Definitely one of the most rockin discs of the year!

    • Dana on


      About three or four years ago Eddie was kind enough to send me all of Kotzen’s solo albums because we are both HUGE John Sykes fans and Eddie likens Kozten to Sykes (a triple threat: great singer, guitar player, songwriter). I am so glad he did and I am now a big Kotzen fan.

      My favorite CD is Go Faster, but all of his records (Get Up, Into The Black, 24 Hours) are really good. I highly encourage you to check them out.

      Dana from 🙂

  • Andrew on

    Goes to show that songs still rule. And when you mix that with great musicianship without the self indulgence people will be into it. That’s what made Steely Dan so cool. they were all amazing musicians but they wrote great songs that have stood the test of time.

  • Abbie on

    Been a fan of Richie Kotzen for years… The Winery Dogs are the best new band/best legit album I’ve heard in a loooong time. Can’t wait to see these guys live next month!

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